Rebels: “We remain cautious and alert to any treachery by the Russians, the regime, and the Iranians”
Rebel factions in Idlib Province in northwest Syria have said they will cooperate with a demilitarized zone agreed between Turkey and Russia.
Following a meeting between Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin last Monday, Ankara and Moscow declared the 15 to 20 km (9 to 12.5 mile) zone between opposition- and regime-held areas in Idlib and northern Hama Provinces.
Turkey has had forces inside the area since August 2016 while Russia is an essential ally of the Assad regime. Turkish objections, supported by a ring of 12 observation posts, prevented a Russian-regime offensive on Idlib and its 3 million residents this summer.
The National Liberation Front, including Free Syrian Army factions, announced on Saturday “our complete cooperation with the Turkish ally in making their effort succeed in sparing civilians the calamities of war”.
The NLF added that it will retain its weapons.
We remain cautious and alert to any treachery by the Russians, the regime, and the Iranians, especially after the issuance of statements by them that indicate this agreement is temporary.
Our finger will remain on the trigger and we will not forgo our weapons or our land or our revolution.
Under the Turkish-Russian agreement, the jihadist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — which seized much of Idlib from rebels in 2017 — is to be removed from the demilitarized zone. It is unclear if all or some rebel factions must withdraw.
Putin has said that all opposition heavy weapons, mortars, tanks, and rocket systems are to be taken out of the zone by October 10. But Turkey has said the “moderate opposition” will keep its weapons and remain in the areas it holds, as the region “cleared of radicals”.
Russia Renews Criticism of Israel Over Downed Spy Plane
Russia has reopened its denunciation of Israel over the Assad regime’s accidental downing on Monday of a Russian surveillance plane, killing 14 personnel.
The incident occurred during Israeli missile strikes across regime-held Latakia and Tartous Provinces in western Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed Israeli F-16 fighters were using the Russian Il-20 as cover, putting it at risk. The Israel Defense Forces said the F-16s had already returned to Israeli airspace.
Russian leader Vladmir Putin appeared to put the matter to rest after a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the downing was a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances”.
But the Russian Embassy in Israel continued to tweet about “irresponsible and unfriendly actions of Israeli Air Force”, and the Defense Ministry said Sunday that it rejected the findings of the Israel Defense Forces.
The Ministry repeated that the Il-20 was being used as cover when it was hit by a Russian-made S-200 missile.
The actions of the Israeli fighter pilots, which resulted in the loss of life of 15 Russian servicemen, either lacked professionalism or were an act of criminal negligence, to say the least.
Therefore, we believe that the blame for the tragedy of the Russian Ilyushin aircraft lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force and those who made the decision to carry out such actions.
Claiming Israel was not adhering to a September 2015 “de-confliction” agreement with Moscow, Konashenkov said, “This is an extremely ungrateful response to all that has been done by the Russian federation for Israel and for the Israeli people, recently.”